HIV and Older Adults: Fact vs. Fiction
- Older adults are not at risk for HIV or AIDS. False. The rates of HIV/AIDS among older adults 50 and over have increased more than 61% from 2001 to 2007. Research shows that by 2015, older adults will become the majority of all people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Older adults are not sexually active. False. Research shows both heterosexual and GLBT older adults are sexually active well into their mid-80s, with a 2007 national study showing 53% of adults age 65-74 and 26% of adults age 75-85 as being active with one or more partners.
- Older adults are less likely to be tested for HIV/AIDS than other age groups. True. Older adults are less likely to be tested because they are not perceived to be at risk due to a common, but mistaken, belief that older adults are not sexually active.
- The level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS transmission, risk, and its effects is uniform across age groups. False. A 2009 national study found that older adults ages 50-65+ had the most misinformation about how HIV can be transmitted.
- An older adult who recently contracted HIV has the same health needs and concerns as someone who has been aging with the disease. False. Research and self-reported surveys show that newly diagnosed and/or infected people with HIV/AIDS report needing or seeking a case manager to navigate HIV/AIDS services and programs, as well as Medicaid Part D and understanding true out-of-pocket costs.
- Transgender people’s risk for HIV/AIDS is heightened because of stigma, transphobia, and discrimination. True. Studies show that transgender people experience high rates of discrimination and stigma, leading to lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, and loneliness. This may make them more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
- Older adults do not use intravenous drugs. False. Intravenous drug use is the second most prevalent method of HIV transmission and infection among those 45 years and older, at a transmission rate of 28% for women and 50% for men.
- The symptoms of being HIV-positive or having AIDS are distinct and easily identifiable. False. In fact, diagnosing HIV/AIDS in older adults can be especially difficult because the symptoms are often mistaken for normal signs of aging.
- After 30 years, the stigma of having HIV/AIDS has mostly disappeared. False. For example, 36 states have laws that criminalize HIV exposure, such as protected sexual contact between two consenting adults.
- Older adults living with HIV/AIDS are thought to experience a “double stigma” of being both old and HIV/AIDS positive. True. Research shows that ageism as well as the discomfort surrounding HIV/AIDS is especially heightened among older adults. For older adults with HIV who are also GLBT, the stigma and discrimination is often even more magnified because of homophobia and transphobia.
*Information adapted from lists put out by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, United States Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institute on Aging.